Athens is an incredible city filled to the brim of must-see sights and things to do and should feature on every European travel bucket list. Steeped in ancient history but with a modern and edgy twist, we spent a week exploring everything the city has to offer and have put together this list of the best things to do in Athens.
Athens has been going through something of a rebirth in the last few years and is emerging as city with something for everyone: a contagious energy, amazing food, epic parties, iconic sights and a fascinating history make it an incredible destination that begs for more than a few days to explore.
Getting around Athens
Athens is huge and sprawling city and the sights are spread out across its neighbourhoods. To get around we used a combination of the city metro and the Athens hop-on hop-off bus tour which is a great way to get between the sights and see the city as you go. If you’re feeling brave check out this tour of Athens by scooter, we did one in Budapest and it was incredible!
1 | The Acropolis
A trip to Athens is only complete with a visit to one of the world’s greatest treasure, the iconic Acropolis. Athens sits under the watchful eye of the Parthenon, the ancient temple, the Erechtion, has beautiful stonework and the stunning theatre, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, should be top of everyone’s list.
Athens Sightseeing Tip: Athens is very busy during peak season with the Acropolis being the city’s most visited sight. To avoid really long queues and the midday sun aim to visit the Acropolis early in the morning.
2 | Acropolis Museum
Located close to the Acropolis the Acropolis Museum houses hundreds of archaeological relics from the Acropolis site. One of the highlights is the Parthenon frieze, the amazing collection of sculptures which once adorned the entrance to the Parthenon.
Where to stay in Athens
- Pallas Athena Grecotel: We stayed in a suite at the quirky Pallas Athena Grecotel Boutique Hotel. which is a 10 minute walk from Monastiraki and incorporates local street art into the room design – check prices here
- A for Athens: If you like to be right in the heart of the action check out A for Athens is perfectly located on Monastaraki square and the beautiful panoramic rooftop deck for breakfast and evening drinks make this one of our favourite hotels in Athens – check prices here
- Plaka Hotel: The Plaka Hotel is a real hidden gem in Athens. This comfy hotel is located just off Monastiraki square and is a perfect base from which to explore Athens. Make sure to checkout the amazing views of the Acropolis from the rooftop bar – check prices here
3 | Mount Lycabettus
Although it’s a little off the beaten track Mount Lycabettus is definitely worth the trip. Either make the climb to the top or take a short ride on the funicular and you will be presented with one of the best panoramic views of Athens!
4 | Exarcheia
The super chill neighborhood of Exarcheia is home to both the National Archaeological Museum and some of the best street art in Athens. Made famous as the home of Greek anarchists, Exarcheia is worth taking some time to explore. The streets of this now residential area are jammed packed with local eateries, relaxed coffee shops and incredible street art.
Athens sightseeing tip: Combine a morning here with the Archaeological Museum and walk to Mount Lycabettus afterwards.
5 | Temple of Hephaestus
Standing on the ancient Agora the beautifully preserved Temple of Hephaestus is the highlight of the site.
Athens sightseeing tip: if you are planning to visit the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, the Ancient Agora, the Theater of Dionysus, the Kerameikos, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Roman Agora a combined ticket is available that covers all the sites.
6 | Hadrian’s Arch and Temple of Olympian Zeus
Hadrian’s Arch is located at the entrance to another unmissable Athens site, the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The Roman emperor Hadrian dedicated the Temple to Zeus, the king of the Gods. It’s amazing that 15 of the 16 original columns are still surviving after 2,000 years.
Athens sightseeing tip:The view at sunset with the Acropolis in the background is incredible.
7 | Panathenaic Stadium
The white marble Panathenaic Stadium is a stunning sight and boasts the title of the world’s only marble stadium. The stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896. Incredible!
8 | Daphne Monastery
The recently restored UNESCO listed Daphne Monastery is a must for any history buffs and the stunning frescos are worth the trip across town. This beautiful Byzantine church is located on the outskirts of Athens and is accessible by Metro and bus/taxi.
Athens sightseeing tip: Make sure to check opening hours before taking the trip out. The monastery is usually only open Tuesdays and Fridays 9am to 2pm.
9 | Monesteraki Square
Traditionally the Flea market trading area of Athens, Monesteraki remains a hive of activity and is a thriving shopping and restaurant area. Get lost in the narrow streets exploring the shops and endless alleys that make up the neighbourhood.
10 | A For Athens Rooftop
One of our favourite rooftop bars in the world, A for Athens is the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail or a hot chocolate while gazing upon the Acropolis and has one of the best views of the Acropolis in all of Athens. Just enter the hotel, take the lift to the rooftop and ask for a seat with a view! If you fancy staying in the hotel this could be your view for breakfast!
11 | National Archaeological Museum
History lovers will rejoice at this incredible museum which houses artifacts from the major archaeological locations through Greece. Even if you’re not a history buff the National Archaeological is still an impressive museum and you’ll need at least a few hours to wander through and take it all in.
Athens sightseeing tip: Our favorite relics are the mask of Agamemnon (made even more incredible when we visited Mycenae where it was discovered) and the Antikythera mechanism which was, among other things, used to tell the cycles of the ancient Olympic games.
12 | Baba Au Rum
After all the sightseeing we needed some rest, relaxation and a good cocktail! Quirky colourful surroundings, a really chilled ambiance and great cocktails make Baba Au Rum an awesome spot for some drinks while exploring downtown Athens. Did we mention it’s listed in the top 50 bars in the world? An accolade it definitely deserves!
13 | Drunk Sinatra
For something more lively try Drunk Sinatra just around the corner from Baba Au Rum. It’s a lot busier but the cocktails are great!
14 | Eat the best Giro in Athens at Thanasis
Giros are a Greek food staple and, for one of the best in Athens, make sure to check out Thanasis, located just off Monastaraki square for some mind blowing Greek food.
15 | Plaka
The oldest neighbourhood in Athens, the Plaka district is a unique village like district within the city which sits under the shadow of the Acropolis. The Plaka is a pedestrianised maze of tiny streets filled with restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques.
16 | Temple of Poseidon at Sounion
If you feel like escaping the city a trip to the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion for sunset is a real treat. This restored Acropolis overlooking the sea is now one of our favourite spots in all of Greece and the Greek Islands. It’s a true hidden gem of Athens due to its location south of the city, but trust us, it’s an amazing site, especially for sunset.
Athens sightseeing tip: we used our rental car to get to the Temple of Poseidon as we were in Athens during our Greek road trip. There are also bus and boat trips from the city to the Temple of Poseidon.
17 | Technopolis City of Athens
Check out the event calendar at the Technopolis, an old natural gas plant in Athens. The venue hosts some really interesting exhibitions and events!
18 | Monastiraki Flea Market
Athens’ famous Monastiraki Flea market sells just about everything you can think of and the area transforms with the arrival of flea market on a Sunday. Tables laden with vintage goods and quirky knick knacks make it a hagglers dream.
19 | Byzantine Churches
The dozen Byzantine Churches of Athens were built in the 11th and 12th century and some house remarkable frescos.
20 | Central Agora Market
We love visiting local markets on our travels and the Central Agora Market is an Athens gem. Primarily a fish, meat and vegetable market it is full of Athenians buying local products. The market is a food and photography lovers dream and a wander through offers an incredible insight into local Athenian life.